WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Biden administration will lift travel restrictions at the land borders with Mexico and Canada starting in November for fully vaccinated travelers, the Department of Homeland Security has announced.
The news was greeted with rejoice in border communities.
“Amazing news for our border cities,” said McAllen hotel manager Omar Guevara on Facebook.
Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said: “This is welcome news. I have long said our region’s path to economic recovery from the setback of the pandemic is with the help of our neighbors in Mexico. Past economic data shows that Mexican travelers in our region account for a large percentage of our consumer sales. We need to reclaim that level of economic activity to emerge from the pandemic in a strong economic position.”
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez said: “Yesterday’s announcement that the U.S. will allow fully vaccinated, non-essential travelers to enter through land ports of entry is welcome news for families and businesses in South Texas. I am pleased to see that the Biden Administration heeded our community’s calls to safely resume cross-border travel. This is an important and long-overdue step to getting our economy back on track.”
Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño, Jr., is chairman of the Texas Border Coalition. He issued this statement in response to DHS’s decision to lift non-essential travel restrictions between the United States, Mexico and Canada: “For more than a year, the Texas Border Coalition has called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to lift restrictions on non-essential travel between the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The year-long exclusion of these customers due to the COVID-19 pandemic has done untold damage to our local economies, especially our retail, dining, and hospitality industries.”
Treviño continued: “As the U.S. has made tremendous progress in fighting COVID-19, we applaud today’s decision by DHS to re-open our borders and allow cross-border travelers who have been fully vaccinated to enter our communities. We need international travelers conducting crucial commercial activities in our border region to revitalize our economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.”
Public policy advocate Ron Whitlock said: “About time. We have been advocating and pushing for the re-opening of our land ports of entry to so-called ‘non-essential’ travelers for many months. It should have happened many months ago. However, this decision does not negate the urgent need for the vaccination program we recommended months ago. Namely, that unvaccinated Matamoros residents be allowed to come to downtown Brownsville to get their Covid-19 vaccine. We have the protocols in place with help from health professionals at UTRGV and Cameron County health department. We just need the Biden Administration to say ‘yes.'”
Here is the DHS statement in full:
Secretary Mayorkas to Allow Fully Vaccinated Travelers from Canada and Mexico to Enter U.S. at Land Borders and Ferry Crossings
Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced that, following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health experts, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will amend Title 19 regulations to allow non-essential travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and have appropriate documentation to enter the United States via land and ferry ports of entry (POEs) across the U.S. border.
“In alignment with the new international air travel system that will be implemented in November, we will begin allowing travelers from Mexico and Canada who are fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to enter the United States for non-essential purposes, including to visit friends and family or for tourism, via land and ferry border crossings,” said Secretary Mayorkas.
“Cross-border travel creates significant economic activity in our border communities and benefits our broader economy. We are pleased to be taking steps to resume regular travel in a safe and sustainable manner.”
The modifications to the Title 19 regulations will occur in two phases over the next few months.
First, in November, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will begin allowing fully vaccinated travelers from Mexico or Canada to enter the United States at land and ferry POEs for non-essential reasons. Travelers will be required to have appropriate paperwork that provides proof of vaccination. Individuals who have not been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 will not be allowed to travel for non-essential purposes from Canada and Mexico into the United States via land and ferry POEs.
Second, beginning in early January 2022, DHS will require that all inbound foreign national travelers crossing U.S. land or ferry POEs – whether for essential or non-essential reasons – be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and provide related proof of vaccination. This approach will provide ample time for essential travelers such as truckers, students, and healthcare workers to get vaccinated.
This new travel system will create consistent, stringent protocols for all foreign nationals traveling to the United States – whether by air, land, or ferry – and accounts for the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations.
Editor’s Note: Here is some of the reaction on Twitter: